The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has agreed to pay $9.99 million to settle a case brought by four supposed sex abuse victims of Michael Baker, who was formerly a priest of the archdiocese.
The cases allege that Baker sexually abused the boys on multiple occasions as early as the 1970s. Baker was ordained a priest in 1974, and resigned from the priesthood in 2000.
As part of the settlement, announced March 12, none of the parties admit wrongdoing.
In 2007, Baker plead guilty to 12 counts of molesting two minors, and was jailed. He was released in 2011.
The same year as Baker's conviction, the Los Angeles archdiocese made a “global settlement” with more than 500 alleged victims of clergy abuse for some $660 million.
In January, the archdiocese released personnel files dating from 1986 and 1987, which were filed as evidence in litigation involving Baker and another ex-priest, Nicholas Aguilar Rivera.
The files showed that in the late 1980s, Cardinal Roger Mahony – then the archbishop of Los Angeles – and Bishop Thomas Curry, who was then archdiocesan vicar of clergy, corresponded often about dealing with priests who had sexually abused minors, including Baker.
Despite this, Baker was not removed from ministry until 2000.
On Jan. 31, Archbishop José Gomez, the current head of the archdiocese, announced that with the release of Baker's, and other priests' personnel files, Cardinal Mahony and Bishop Curry would no longer have any official duties in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Archbishop Gomez, who was appointed Los Angeles' coadjutor bishop in 2010, announced that “I find these files to be brutal and painful reading...We need to acknowledge that terrible failure today.”
Cardinal Mahony led the Los Angeles archdiocese for 26 years. On Feb. 1, he released a letter he wrote to Archbishop Gomez explaining his history of dealing with clergy sexual abuse.
“Nothing in my own background or education equipped me to deal with this grave problem,” he said.
He reproached his archbishop for not expressing displeasure with his policies before now.
“Not once over these past years did you ever raise any questions about our policies, practices, or procedures in dealing with the problem of clergy sexual misconduct involving minors.”
Archbishop Gomez' decision to relieve Bishops Mahony and Curry of their duties in his archdiocese has been widely welcomed, with local author and historian Charles Coulombe calling it “the best possible thing he could have done.”
“In every way seemingly, he's the opposite of his predecessor, and that's what we need,” Coulombe told CNA last month.
The Los Angeles archdiocese now provides training for both adults and children about how to prevent abuse. It has been found in compliance with every audit of child protection measures, which have been conducted since 2004.